With some creativity, we can think of many ways to amend the Nationality Law to make it fairer, while keeping in mind that it must also benefit the Taiwanese people. Here I put forward 3 proposals, based on how other democratic countries have decided to deal with this issue.
Proposal 1: Remove the renunciation requirement entirely.
Article 9 of the Nationality Act imposes the renunciation requirement for those seeking naturalization in Taiwan, and we have discussed it in detail previously. Removing Article 9 of the Nationality Act would make dual nationality acceptable for all naturalization cases under Taiwanese law.
Importantly, this would not mean that Taiwan needs to recognize a Taiwanese citizen's second nationality, or allow them to exploit any benefits associated with a second nationality while residing in Taiwan. Taiwan could require that naturalized citizens enter Taiwan using their Taiwanese ID, and that they take up all duties and responsibilities of citizenship while in Taiwan.
Proposal 2: Expand the exceptions for the renunciation requirement.
The existing exceptions listed in Article 9 have a clear purpose. They reward those who provide substantial benefit to Taiwan with the privilege of dual nationality. However, the existing definition of these benefits is very narrow, and includes only a very small subset of people eligible for naturalization. Indeed, we have previously mentioned that only 119 people qualified for the high-level professional exception in the first 3 years of implementation.
One idea would be to add additional exceptions for two categories of people:
- those who are eligible for or have already obtained permanent residence, or
- those who are married to or immediate family members of a Taiwanese national.
The requirements for permanent residence are already sufficient for demonstrating one's contribution to Taiwan, whether through work, investment, scholarship, the arts, or otherwise. This would essentially mean that qualified foreign residents could choose either permanent residence or naturalization, depending on their willingness to take on the full set of rights and responsibilities that come with citizenship.
Encouraging young people to start and raise their families in Taiwan is also important, and allowing dual nationality ensures that Taiwanese children will not be separated from their foreign parents or grandparents.
Proposal 3: Create an alternate path to naturalization, which does not include a renunciation requirement.
There are currently 3 general paths to naturalization:
a) 5 years of continuous (183 days per year) residence with sufficient income, property or skills to support oneself
b) 3 years of continuous residence and marriage to a Taiwanese national
c) 10 years of residence in Taiwan
All 3 paths include some other basic qualifications, such as a clean criminal record, language skills, and civic knowledge. All 3 paths also include the renunciation requirement.
Another path could be created which does not include the renunciation requirement. One way to do this would be to make two timelines for naturalization, a shorter one which includes the renunciation requirement, and a longer one which doesn't.
For example, the current paths (5 years, 3 years, or 10 years) could be supplemented by an alternate path that takes 3 additional years (8 years, 6 years, or 13 years). In this way, a foreigner married to a Taiwanese national could choose to naturalize after 3 years and give up their existing citizenship, or they could choose to wait 6 years and keep their existing citizenship.
Yet another possibility would be to grant all permanent residents the right to naturalize after some time, say 3 years, without renouncing their existing nationality. This would mean that a foreign worker could choose to naturalize after 5 years as above, or they could choose to first take permanent residence for 3 years, after which they could naturalize without giving up their existing citizenship. This path would also make a clear distinction between short-term and permanent residence, and like many European and American countries, it would allow permanent residence to be viewed as a path towards citizenship.
What do other countries do?
Any one of these modifications to the existing law would benefit not only the many long-term foreign residents in Taiwan who forego naturalization due to the renunciation requirement, but as I have discussed previously, allowing these people to "become Taiwanese" would also be of significant benefit to Taiwan and the Taiwanese people.
Most democratic countries around the world have adopted a policy similar to Proposal 1 above. They do not require that naturalized individuals give up any prior citizenship, and recognize the many benefits associated with dual nationality.
In the East-Asia region, Taiwan may look to South Korea as an example. South Korea adopted a policy similar to Proposal 2 above. In addition to a larger set of exceptions, naturalized citizens who maintain their existing nationality are required to swear an oath that they will not exercise their non-Korean citizenship in South Korea. An oath of allegiance is in fact a common requirement for naturalization in many countries, including the United States and others.
Taiwan could make a similar requirement for Taiwanese dual nationals, and that may in fact be a good idea. Under the current law, Taiwanese nationality may be revoked for up to 5 years if the basis for naturalization is found to be fraudulent. Breaking an oath made in a court of law could certainly constitute fraud. This would give the government recourse in the case where a new citizen abuses the privilege of dual nationality, for example, to avoid military service.
So, which of these proposals do you prefer? Which do you think strikes the correct balance between fairness and benefiting Taiwan? Do you have a better idea? We would love to hear it! Feedback, constructive criticism and suggestions are always welcome, so please leave a comment on our Facebook or Twitter to let us know what you think.
You can help!
If someone you know may be eligible for Taiwanese naturalization, please share this article with them, and like us on Facebook and Twitter to show your support. If you are eligible for naturalization, but are unwilling or unable to proceed due to the renunciation requirement, please join our mailing list. You'll be the first to know of any meeting, rally, press conference, or other public action where your support would be most valuable.